Saturday, June 28, 2008


My Bloody Valentine play Manchester Apollo tonight as their comeback tour continues. I'm not there tonight but I did see them as part of the Rollercoaster tour at Brixton Academy in 1992.

At the time this created quite a stir: The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine and Dinosaur Jr, three of the loudest bands around at that time, plus young upstarts Blur sharing a bill on equal footing. And the running order of the bands would be drawn each night. Well that's what they said. When Jesus and Mary Chain came on last and a huge lighting rig descended no-one was in doubt about who was headlining. JAMC and Dinosaur Jr can be pretty terrifyingly LOUD at the best of times. But MBV was something else.

I seem to remember the band emerged from four plastic pods - just like in Spinal Tap. I might have this wrong, memory has failed me many times before. But what I have no doubt about was the noise. Now this wasn't just loud. I watched MBV from the very back of the Academy under the overhang from the first floor. And my diaphragm was vibrating painfully. All my internal organs were being shaken up by the waves of sound hitting me. And I was at the back.

This seems to be borne out by reports of their recent London gigs with ear-protectors given out on the way in (here and here). The mystique of MBV is about more than noise but if you are going tonight, I'd advise body protection as well as ear protection.

My Bloody Valentine
Glider EP [BUY]

The Jesus and Mary Chain
Barbed Wire Kisses [BUY]
Dinosaur Jr.
Fossils [BUY]

Also tonight The Fall plus John Cooper Clarke and Bobby Peru at Manchester Academy. Spoilt for choice! Tickets here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


A one-off British Sea Power gig sandwiched after 50+ date US tour and before Festival summer appearances PLUS happening in the North West of England PLUS on my birthday EQUALLED a road-trip from Manchester to sunny Morecambe.

Unfortunately it wasn't sunny. It was pouring with rain. And it was very windy on the promenade. However did manage find some shelter in Sam's Fish Bar for a spot of warmth and a large plate of good ol' British sustenance before the gig:

First visit to Morecambe and boy does it need it regeneration. I thought it would be 'quaint', 'neglected', all faded grandeur and hidden charms. Nope, it was just a dump. A depressed seaside town that could have been Hastings or Rhyl or Blackpool.

So Morecambe Dome. Well if you look at the venue's listing (here) this is clearly a case of a "credible" band playing an 'ironic' venue. Surely. Or maybe being so close the Lake District the Dome was a source of early inspiration for the band growing up. Childhood Memories anyone?

And guess what? It is a DOME. From the outside it is definitely a faded/neglected relic (from the 70s?) looking suspiciously like a roller-disco. Inside it is slightly better. Mainly because it is dark and beer is available to buy. There is a stage formed at one 'side' of the Dome with a level floor in front, tiered seating at the opposite side, and then a bar to one side. The ceiling of the Dome is transparent plastic that appears to be filled with corrugated cardboard. Capacity of about 800-1000 at a guess.

BSP were on at 9.30pm and played a pretty similar set to those on UK dates in January mixing lots from new album Do You Like Rock Music? with some older songs. Competent but a little lack-lustre in terms of atmsophere; not helped by a fairly sparse crowd. Did pick up towards the end but overall enjoyable rather than exceptional.

Only surprises were finishing with Lately/Rock in A and also a rendition of Happy Birthday Ronald played apparently for Yan's Dad who was 84 last week. But come on people! We know whose birthday it was today don't we?

During Rock in A, Noble went walkabout over the heads of the crowd (fairly brave given the large gaps) and took the air raid siren with him. Not sure if this was the intended rock 'n' roll pose he was aiming for:

Lights Out For Darker Skies
Waving Flags
Down on the Ground
Happy Birthday Ronald
Remember Me
Canvey Island
The Great Skua
Larsen B
A Trip Out
No Lucifer
The Spirit of St Louis
Lately/Rock in A

British Sea Power
Do You Like Rock Music? [BUY]

British Sea Power
Childhood Memories single [SEEK]

I would write about support band Djune but it would be a waste of effort beyond saying I hated them: competent musicians but bland songs. Third-rate metal played by indie rock kids. Except when they brought on the acoustic guitar (then it was third rate stadium rock played by etc. etc.). And then they MURDERED New Order's Blue Monday. And they had dire banter. Get the picture? All of which means they will be huge this time next year.

Finally thanks to Mr P for the driving, the ticket and arranging the sing-song.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Managed at short-notice and unexpectedly to get a ticket for this gig. Leonard Cohen is not one of the artists I'd previously list in my most admired or favourites but great to get a ticket for these sell-out theatre shows in Manchester (rest of summer tour is stadia or festivals) and even better to see a legendary artist and understand why he is a legend.

Leonard was backed by a nine-piece band - three singers, keyboards, drums, bass, saxophone/'instrument of wind' and two guitarists - all suited and booted in black (good to see a drummer with a tie and waistcoat). They were clearly exceptional musicians but their role was to provide a subtle backdrop to his voice and to the lyrics. Some of Leonard's backing music, particularly on latter career albums, does tend towards the muzak/smooth end of the spectrum; and this was reproduced (with class) here. But purposely to foreground Leonard's rich voice and those distinctive lyrics. Dressed in a charcoal grey suit and with a brimmed hat, he appeared humbled by the rapturous reception he met - his entrance, after an absence from the UK of 15 years, was of course met with a standing ovation.

The revelation that followed (to me) was then what a performer he is and just how funny he is. In a set that lasted three hours (including a "fifteen to seventeen minute" break), he was witty, self-deprecating and humble in his banter, and truly delivered his songs. Most were performed with his body tensed, slightly hunched, knees bent and cupping his hands around the microphone intently. Despite his years, the voice was captivating.

Obviously he was playing to a crowd on his side - standing ovations at every stage exit/entrance, shouts of encouragement and love throughout - but he appeared genuinely moved by this. To me the highlights were when he kept it simple like Tower of Song: just him, a drum machine, some swirls on the Hammond B3 and the three backing singers. I overheard conversations in the interval about memories of seeing him "in Croydon in 1972". This was another performance that people will be remembering in 36 years' time. Worth going out of your way to see on his summer travels if you have deep pockets.

Dance Me To the End of Love
The Future
Ain't No Cure For Love
Bird on a Wire
Everybody Knows
In My Secret Life
Who By Fire
Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye
- interval -
Tower of Song
The Gypsy's Wife
Boogie Street
I'm Your Man
A Thousand Kisses Deep
Take This Waltz
So Long, Marianne
First We Take Manhattan
That Don't Make It Junk
If It Be Your Will
Closing Time
I Tried To Leave You

Leonard Cohen
Songs of Love and Hate [BUY]

Leonard Cohen
I'm Your Man [BUY]

Leonard Cohen
The Future [BUY]

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


The Ruby Lounge was temporarily converted into a small shrine tonight; a holy place for all those who worship Hefner. This included Darren Hayman, accompanied by old band mate Jack Hayter. Darren arrived on stage frazzled, clutching T-shirts and CDs and reflecting on how in the business of rock 'n' roll, musicians also end up running clothes stores. He pointed out tonight's gig was NOT Hefner ("that's four people; and there's only two of us") but that he and Jack were, like us, Hefner fans. And you couldn't get better affirmation of that than the first song A Hymn For The Alcohol. Not only was it lovingly sung and played (Darren on electric guitar, Jack playing electric pedal steel), the audience were word-perfect in singing too. This set the tone for the evening - touching renditions of Hefner songs with every word sung back to Darren by a devoted following.
After the first song the calls for favourites from Hefner's back catalogue began. Darren pointed out they would be starting gently but would pick up speed and get to cover those requests. He was true to his word about the former but despite a set that covered all five albums including a few from final 'experimental' album Dead Media, there were many of those classics they simply couldn't fit in. Most noticeably Pull Yourself Together. But plenty of others - including some inspired requests from the crowd (Painting and Kissing and The Baggage Reclaim Song being the best).

By the final part of the set Darren, Jack and crowd were truly in their element. The final songs they played, finishing the main set with The Day That Thatcher Dies, were pure joy to hear live - even with Darren starting to lose his voice. This was a relatively short evening (on stage for about for 75 minutes or so) but also one bathed in affection, warmth and the simple pleasure of hearing great songs played in such intimacy. A night to treasure.

The set-list:
The Hymn For The Alcohol
The Librarian
The Weight of The Stars
China Crisis
The Greedy Ugly People
Don't Go
As Soon As You're Ready
Half A Life
Hello Kitten
The Sad Witch
The Hymn For The Cigarettes
The Day That Thatcher Dies
The Hymn To The Postal Service

Arrived to catch the last two songs from Pierre Hall. Next support band was Amida: five blokes who if you saw them drinking together would look an odd mix but put them in an indiepop band and they all 'fit'. They subscribe to the narrow definition of 'indiepop' - short, jangly, unpolished pop songs played fast including some 'whoa-a-hoos' and lines like "I will kiss you in a month of Sundays". Interested in hearing more on record.

The Hefner Brain EP [BUY]

The Fidelity Wars [BUY]

Tonight to Sunday Darren and Jack play shows in Leeds, London and Cardiff. More here.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Keith John Adams' new album UNCLEVER is officially available in the UK this month. "Officially available" however appears to mean the same as before - order it via kja's website or MySpace page and once paid he'll post you one. I did this earlier this year (when saw it was released in the USA on Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records) and got this little note:

Whether you will get a note or not now, I cannot say. However if you do order a copy (and I really would recommend it) you get a fine record of infectiously good indie guitar pop and all for the unbelievably good value of £5. Including post and packaging. Beat that major labels.

The album is in the same vein as kja's 2005 release PIP - but with more guitars. The kiddie piano/toy box percussion moves aside to make way for lots of stomping guitar riffs - every song has it's own big hook. It's not lofi (recorded in Athens GA with Jason Nesmith) but has an intimacy and charm of someone playing at home with friends for fun. And as well as the catchy hooks it has bags of wide-eyed exuberance as it stomps through 12 tracks in a breezy 35 minutes. A real winner.

Keith John Adams
Unclever [BUY - and you really should]

Keith with band is playing in London this Thursday at The Gramaphone, Commercial Street, London E1 - book tickets HERE

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Band on the Wall is a Manchester institution that has played host to a dizzying array of bands and artists (if you don’t know the full story go here or here).

More than simply a live music venue, it has sadly been closed for the last three years but should be re-opening in Spring 2009, on the same site in the Northern Quarter but with expanded facilities.
Tonight a celebration event was held at Manchester’s Town Hall in advance of that opening to which yours truly blagged an invitation. The event was aimed at sponsors and those with influence or deep pockets. Sadly I possess none of these. But I did enjoy the free Tuborg and came away with a BOTW mouse mat.

However if you have spare cash or bags of influence please consider BOTW and go here.

I last went to BOTW in.....and this is why ticket stubs are so important. Without them you rely on memory. Hmmmm. 2004? 2005?

Anyway The Earlies were headlining and Working For a Nuclear Free City and The Longcut were supporting. Came in mid-set for WFANFC and remember being annoyed at missing out - excellent stuff, only topped by an impassioned performance by The Longcut. A shouting drummer-singer! He drums, he shouts, they play loudly. Unfortunately next came The Earlies. This was around the time their first album came out - and their performance was greeted as a combination of album launch party-cum-homecoming ticker tape parade.

Sorry - but I hated it. I thought they were dull, the material was poor (the 'best' song by a mile was a cover of Rachel Stevens' Sweet Dreams My LA-ex) and the sound a mess. Yet the crowd lapped it up - clearly their families were in that night. I was so shocked I stopped Stuart from The Longcut and told him they were ten times - no a hundred times better. He agreed. Some old tracks from both bands.

The Longcut
A Call and Response [BUY]
Working For a Nuclear Free City
Working For a Nuclear Free City [BUY]

WFANFC are playing The Irish Club in Chorlton, Manchester tomorrow 6 June [INFO] and The Longcut are playing The Deaf Institute, Manchester on Friday 20 June [BUY TICKETS].